Friday, January 25th, Texas Secretary of State Republican David Whitley issued a press release and advisory to county voter registrars “regarding voter registration list maintenance activities, which include identifying any non-U.S. citizens registered to vote in the State of Texas.”
According to Whitley, the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, along with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) have worked together for the past year to “evaluate information regarding persons identified to not be citizens of the United States. This voter registration list maintenance activity is being conducted in accordance with federal and state law to ensure that only qualified voters – who must first and foremost be U.S. citizens – are registered to vote in Texas elections.”
According to the press release in the course of their evaluation they discovered approximately 95,000 “individuals identified by DPS as non-U.S. citizens have a matching voter registration record in Texas,” and “approximately 58,000 of whom have voted in one or more Texas elections.”
Whitley explains that “upon receipt of this information Texas Secretary of State’s office immediately provided the data in its possession to the Texas Attorney General’s office, as the Secretary of State has no statutory enforcement authority to investigate or prosecute alleged illegal activity in connection with an election.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) issued a press release on Friday stating that his office would “space no effort in assisting with these troubling cases.”
On Sunday President Trump tweeted that “58,000 non-citizens voted in Texas.”
The President went on to retweet a tweet posted Friday by AG Paxton.
Chris Davis, the head of the Texas Association of Elections Administrations told the Texas Tribune that it was too early to say that all of those votes cast between 1996 and 2018 were illegal, because non-citizens can become naturalized citizens.
People get naturalized. It’s entirely too early to say that.Texas Tribune January 25th, 2019
The New York Times reported Friday that Texas Secretary of State spokesman Sam Taylor explained that the announcement given by Whitley “did not mean authorities had discovered 95,000 registered voters who it knew for a fact were non-citizens.”
He went on to explain to the Times that the office was “advising local officials to ask,” voters via letter to prove they were citizens. He noted that it’s a felony for non-citizens to vote in Texas.
Taylor explained that the method used to identify problematic registrations left “very little if any,” room for error.
On Tuesday The Texas Tribune reported that five of the largest Texas counties officials, Harris, Travis, Fort Bend, Collin, and Williamson, told the paper that they’d each been contacted by the Texas Secretary of State’s Office indicating “that some of the voters whose citizenship status the state said counties should consider checking should not actually be on those lists,” because the Secretary of State’s office “incorrectly included some voters who had submitted their voting registration applications at Texas Department of Public Safety offices.”
Special Assistant County Attorney in Harris County, Douglas Ray told The Tribune Harris County was going to “proceed very carefully.” Harris County had received 29,822 voters that were initially flagged, but Ray explained that a substantial number of them were now being marked as citizens.
In a statement regarding the error Texas Secretary of State Office spokesman Sam Taylor explained they were contacting counties with information as “part of the process of ensuring no eligible voters were impacted by any list maintenance activity.”
According to the article most of the counties “with the most registered voters in the state said they were holding off on sending “proof of citizenship” letters to the voters who were flagged. Just Galveston County officials said they were dropping some letters in the mail Monday, starting a 30-day countdown for voters to provide proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate, a U.S. passport or a certificate of naturalization. Voters who don’t respond will have their voter registration canceled.”
Travis County’s tax assessor-collector and voter registrar Bruce Elfant told The Tribune that the error would likely cause a “significant drop in the number of registered voters flagged by the state.” Travis County received a list containing 4,547 registered voters for review.
Elections Administrator for Fort Bend John Oldham told the paper he’d received the same call regarding the list of 8,035 individuals flagged by the States Election Office. The Tribune explains that Oldham found two non-citizens on the list so far, but that in both those cases, “the individuals had indicated they were not citizens on their voter registration applications but were mistakenly added to the voter rolls.”
The Texas Tribune notes that so far one lawsuit has been filed against the state “over its efforts to flag voters for citizenship checks. The League of United Latin American Citizens’ national and Texas arms are suing the state over what they say is is an “election-related ‘witch hunt’” designed to intimidate legitimately registered voters by asking them to prove their citizenship.” The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in a federal court in San Antonio.
For What It’s Worth: The Washington Post reported Monday that AG Paxton in a fundraising email told his supporters that “many of these individuals may have been naturalized before registering and voting, which makes their conduct perfectly legal.”